WHERE TO SEE EAGLES
Eagles feed along the river in the early morning. On cloudy, rainy days, in late morning and early afternoon, eagles roost along the river. While on sunny days they soar over the valley.
Picture taking: Most of the viewing sites face the south, so on sunny days the sun shines into the camera lens.
Four places, staffed with volunteer guides with telescopes, to begin your eagle watching adventure are:
- Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center (at Howard Miller Steelhead Park)
- Mile Post 100 Rest Area on Highway 20
- Howard Miller Steelhead Park
- Marblemount Fish Hatchery (CLOSED TO VISITORS AT THIS TIME)
A great spot is the Bald Eagle Natural Area, a State Fish and Wildlife viewing site on Martin Road, off SR 530, just south of the Skagit River bridge. The sun will be behind you.
Watchable Wildlife Consider helping support the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) programs by purchasing a “Watchable Wildlife” decal.
1. The Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center
Located in Rockport, WA in Howard Miller Steelhead Park, open 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. We lead guided nature walks to eagle watching sites along the Skagit River at 11:00 am on Saturdays and Sundays. Guest speakers share their expert knowledge about a variety of environmental topics every Saturday at 1:00 pm. The Center features a Nature Store, Children’s Corner, informational videos, replica eagle’s nest, directions to the Eagle Watcher sites and Skagit Eagle Festival information. Stop at the Interpretive Center and find out exactly where to go during your visit to see bald eagles on the Skagit River.
2. U.S. Forest Service Eagle Watcher Sites
Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest staff three sites with trained Eagle Watcher volunteers to answer questions, provide information, and help you locate bald eagles through their spotting scopes and binoculars. Look for the yellow “Eagle Watcher” signs at Mile Post 100 on Highway 20, Howard Miller Steelhead County Park and the Marblemount Fish Hatchery. Together with the Interpretive Center, Eagle Watcher volunteers help visitors safely see bald eagles while minimumly disturbing the eagles themselves. These locations have trash cans, restroom facilities, ample parking, great staff and great views of eagles! See our Eagle Watching tips to prepare yourself for this experience.
3. Howard Miller Steelhead Park, Rockport
Located near the Interpretive Center, the park is accessible from Alfred Street in Rockport, or from State Route 530, near the bridge over the Skagit River. The Eagle Watcher staff is set up in the park near the bridge. The best vantage point is from the bridge, looking upstream to gravel bars, and the trees along the river. Please, use the sidewalk on the bridge to stay out of the road. The Park has interpretive displays, flush toilets, a boat ramp, water, tent and RV camping with hookups, and a waste removal site for RV’s. Hiking trails at the west end of the camping areas lead to more riverside viewing sites.
4. Milepost 100 Rest Area, at Sutter Creek on State Route 20
The Skagit River runs directly next to this popular site affording the visitor a great view of feeding areas on the gravel bars on the south side of the river. The site offers plenty of parking, picnic tables, a boat launch, and interpretive displays. The forests on the mountainside are a prime eagle night-roosting site.
5. Marblemount Fish Hatchery (FACILITIES AND PARKING LOT CLOSED DUE TO COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS)
At Marblemount, cross the Skagit River bridge and proceed past the entrance to the Marblemount Boat Launch (the starting place for bald eagle rafting trips and the location of a very nice bird-watching loop walk that follows the Skagit and Cascade Rivers). Continue past the boat launch for about a half mile, then turn right on the Rockport-Cascade Road, cross the Cascade River Bridge, and take the next right to the Fish Hatchery. Tours are offered Saturdays and Sundays from the last weekend in December through mid-February (tour times to be posted later). Knowledgeable guides take you into the hatchery to explain how eagles relate to the lifecycle of the Pacific Salmon. Visitors get to see living salmon eggs and alevin in the hatchery and can feed the fish in the outdoor pens (great fun for kids!). Besides fish, the hatchery river frontage offers great views of eagles, hawks, blue herons, ducks, and dippers. A short path follows the inlet stream for the hatchery down to the Cascade River. The inlet is often crowded with spawning or dead chum, Coho, or steelhead. Picnic tables, flush toilets, and an indoor heated exhibit room are available.
6. Washington Eddy, Rockport (Milepost 99, SR 20)
Please note that trees and vegetation have grown up to obscure river viewing at this site. It is no longer staffed by Eagle Watcher volunteers and the interpretive displays have been removed. It remains a great bird watching area and features a large beaver lodge.
7. The North Cascades National Park Visitor Center in Newhalem
(The visitor center is closed in the winter). To visit the North Cascades Visitor Center continue on Highway 20 passed Marblemount for about 16 miles to Newhalem (use caution as icey conditions are more common north of Marblemount). The Visitor Center has interpretive exhibits on the formation of the North Cascade mountain range and Skagit Valley, native plants, and hands-on exhibits for children. Check out the Park film, slideshow, bookstore, and souvenir shop. There are miles of easy and accessible trails near the Visitor Center that will take you through old growth forest and close to the Skagit River, Bald Eagles, and spawned-out Salmon. A 300 foot walk from the Visitor Center leads to an incredible view of the mighty Pickett Range.
While in Newhalem, it is worthwhile to visit Gorge Powerhouse. Walk out on the suspension bridge over the Skagit River and you are likely to see hundreds of salmon swimming around wondering why they can go no further. Above the powerhouse, the entire Skagit River flows through a tunnel from the Gorge Dam several miles upstream. Continue across the bridge to begin a short but delightful walk to the roaring waterfall on Ladder Creek.
Skagit Wildlife Area (Skagit Flats): The area where the Skagit River flows into Puget Sound, along Fir Island and Conway, is another good spot. The bonus of going there, you can see thousands of snow geese.
Bay View State Park (Padilla Bay)
Deception Pass State Park (Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island)
Washington Park (Anacortes)
Bellingham: The Nooksack River east of the city is a good destination. One of the best spots is a viewing pullout just east of milepost 20 on state Route 542. The peak time is usually early January.
Allyn: Located on Case Inlet in the South Sound, this area attracts about a dozen eagles each fall and winter. A good spot to watch for the eagles is Allyn Waterfront Park as the birds fly along the shore looking for a meal.
Ellensburg: The drive along state Route 821 through the Yakima Canyon is worth the trip. There are plenty of eagles that winter along the Yakima River. In addition, you might see bighorn sheep and mule deer along the hillsides.
Hoquiam: The Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge just west of the city is a good place to start. Because the refuge attracts plenty of shorebirds and migrating waterfowl, it also attracts eagles.
Olympia: The Woodard Bay Natural Resource Conservation Area is located north of the city. The Overlook Trail on the south side of the bay is a good place to look for eagles. The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge just off Interstate 5 also attracts eagles.
Rosburg: The Grays River as it flows south of this small town before reaching the Columbia River attracts dozens of eagles. The best viewing is from mid January to early February.
Sequim: Lots of eagles will congregate along the Discovery Bay side of Miller Peninsula. If the eagles are soaring overhead, don’t expect to see any waterfowl on the bay. They will be hiding to avoid being attacked. The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge is another option.
South Prairie: Walk or ride along the Foothills Trail east of this town and you will likely see bald eagles perched high in the tall streamside trees. A good spot is near the REI rest area.
Tacoma: There are plenty of locations around Commencement Bay to see eagles. Use binoculars and look for them on the pilings near the mouth of the Puyallup River and watch for them along Marine View Drive. At Point Defiance Park, look in the trees along the bluffs and the overlooks looking toward Gig Harbor.
Additional Location List compiled from: Bald Eagles Returning: Where to Watch Them, CBS Seattle